I first heard about the San Blas Islands when I was travelling in Colombia. As there is no road from Panama to Colombia a lot of people opt for the 4 night/5 day boat trip. It’s quite an expensive option and as I get so seasick I believed it was a trip I was never going to do and a place I was never going to see.
When I found out I needed to get further away from the US than Mexico or the Caribbean to reset my visa I decided to visit Costa Rica & Panama, I had previously visited Costa Rica but hadn’t had time to go to Panama too.
While I was in Costa Rica I decided to check out the lonely planet and see what there was to do in Panama. I was reading about these gorgeous islands and suddenly realised they were the ones I had been hearing about all the time I was in Colombia.
That was then decided, I needed to make my way to Panama City and visit the San Blas islands from there. I booked into the Mamallena hostel in Panama City as I knew that they could book my San Blas trip, and caught the overnight bus from Bocas del toro arriving at 7am.
After crashing on the sofa for a few hours as it was too early to check in, I sat down and discussed my San Blas trip, decided on an Island and by10am I had my trip to the San Blas Islands booked for 5.30am the next morning!! The transfer in the 4×4 vehicle is $60 US and takes about 3 hours to the small port where you pick up the boat for the island you have decided to stay. It can be a bit chaotic but the driver helps get you on the right boat.
I had chosen to stay at Franklin’s, a small island split in half, but our half had the nice beach and huts overlooking the water. I paid $26 US a night for a dorm room and this includes 3 meals. We bought snacks & water before going to the island but you are able to buy some there, just at a higher price. Just make sure you take enough cash for food & excursions as there are no ATM’s and you can’t pay by card, if you run out of money you have to leave!!
We got off the boat and went to the hut to pay up and then went to see our home for the next 3 nights. It’s basic but you get a bed, there are some shelves to put your bags, the floor is just the beach, and as a person who hates sand, it’s surprising how quickly you get used to it. The hut is open to the elements and the birds, it rained a couple of nights during the night and the first night I got woken up as it was raining on me!! The birds do come into your room, so just check your sheets for bird poo and you can easily get them changed, also make sure your food is well protected, the birds managed to peck through 2 carrier bags and into my crisps (potato chips) and biscuits!! They also tried pecking through my rucksack when I transferred the food into there!!
Here is me outside my hut and the view from my hut.
The first day I just chilled and enjoyed the beach. I swam in the sea, did a bit of snorkelling and walked around the island (that took about 10 mins!!). Meal times are set and you are woken up early about 7.30am for breakfast, lunch is about 11.30am and then dinner is at 4.30pm. It got dark early when I was there and as the generator was shut off at about 9pm we did get to catch up on much needed sleep!!
The second day most of us on the island (there were about 10 of us, the whole island can sleep about 90 people) decided to do a trip to a nearby reef and to Isla Perro which has a shipwreck. It was a great day, the water was clear and the shipwreck was close to shore so nice and easy to snorkel around. We were also joined by the local military who had come ashore and decided to do some snorkelling around the shipwreck too!!
After the trip it was back to the Island for a game of volleyball. I keep trying but it’s a game I am very poor at. I didn’t too bad though, we actually had a proper volleyball ball, obviously this was why I have always been so rubbish before!! Still need to work on my co-ordination and not running away from the ball!!
The final day a few of us decided to go to the main Kuna island for a visit around their local town to see the school and the local hospital. You get to see exactly how they live and many of them live in the same kind of basic huts that we only had to sleep in for 3 nights!!
After that it was back to the island for our final bit of relaxation and sunbathing before our 8am pick up back to the mainland the next day.
It was a truly amazing experience, no wifi and no electricity to charge appliances for 3 days!! And do you know what, I didn’t miss it!! Just relaxing and having the sea a few metres from your door and going to sleep listening to it was amazing. I love this place and hopefully I will be back again one day for another visit.
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Find out about Why I started travelling here, Miami Beach here, Key West here, Everglades here, Bolton Abbey here, Naples here, Koh Tao here, Yangon – Myanmar here, Ischica – Italy here, Koyasan – Japan here, Machu Picchu – Peru here, Memphis here, Faro – The Algarve here, Fiji – South Sea Island here, Egypt – My trip in a hot air balloon here, Doutbful Sound – NZ here, Death Road – Bolivia here, Iguazu Falls – Argentina here, Northern Lights – here, Hobbiton NZ – here, The Lost City Hike Colombia – here & Choquequirao Trek here